May 13, 2022 - News

City expands free lead pipe removal program

Illustration of pipes shaped like a dollar sign.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

More Chicagoans can now get their toxic lead water lines removed for free under recent rule changes that expand income eligibility.

Why it matters: As we reported earlier this week, city officials promised in 2020 to remove 400 to 800 lead water lines a year.

  • But despite having $15 million in federal funding for the program, the city has removed just 60, and most homes are still connected to the water main using lead pipes.

The details: When the program launched, applicants had to prove they had high levels of lead in their water and a yearly income below $65,550 for a family of three, for example.

  • But on Wednesday, the city expanded eligibility to applicants with incomes up to $75,050 for a family of three.
  • Homes with high lead results and the presence of children will be prioritized.

Of note: Residents whose income doesn't qualify have to pay for removal themselves, even though city code required lead pipes until 1986.

  • Officials estimate the cost to homeowners will be $19,000 to $26,000.
  • These removal fees are about five times higher than those in Detroit, for example.

The latest: President Biden said Wednesday he's committed to removing all 400,000 lead service lines in Chicago in a decade.

  • But how that will actually work is still unclear.

Pro tips: If your home was built before 1986, you probably have lead pipes. Health experts recommend taking these precautions to reduce lead:

๐Ÿ’ง Filter all drinking water with an NSF-certified device.

๐Ÿšฐ Run taps for five minutes before consuming water anytime you haven't run your faucets for more than six hours.

๐Ÿผ Never drink hot water from the tap or use it for baby formula, as heavy metals concentrate in heated water.

๐Ÿงช Get your water tested by the city for free by calling 311, but know it's just a snapshot of your water quality at that moment, not a definitive lead test.

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